Independent news has never been so important.

Did you know that you can get Democracy Now! delivered to your inbox every day? Sign up for our Daily News Digest today! Don't worry, we'll never share or sell your information.

Manhattan DA Set to Determine the Fate of the Central Park Jogger Rape Case This Week: Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist Sydney Schanberg Discusses the New Evidence and the Power Politics

StoryDecember 03, 2002
Watch Full Show

This Thursday, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau has to inform the court whether he will vindicate or vacate the convictions in the famous Central Park Jogger case.

The New York Daily News reports that the NYPD met with the Morgenthau yesterday and urged him not to clear the five youths.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Sydney Schanberg recently wrote a story in the New York weekly The Village Voice on the famous case. It begins like this:

“Every now and again, we get a look, usually no more than a glimpse, at how the justice system really works. What we see, before the sanitizing curtain is drawn abruptly down, is a process full of human fallibility and error, sometimes noble, more often unfair, rarely evil but frequently unequal, and through it all inevitably influenced by issues of race and class and economic status. In short, it’s a lot like other big, unwieldy institutions. Such a moment of clear sight emerges from the mess we know as the case of the Central Park jogger.

“She was horribly beaten and raped and left near death on an April night 13 years ago. Five Harlem teenagers who were part of a “wilding” spree by more than 30 youths in Central Park that night were accused of the rape. Other charges included sexual abuse, assault, riot, and robbery. Under intense questioning, they at first confessed, in written statements and on videotape, but shortly thereafter retracted everything, contending that they had been intimidated, lied to, and coerced into making the statements. There was no physical evidence linking them to the crime, no blood match, no semen match, nothing. The victim could not provide an identification of any assailant because the battering left her with no memory whatever of the episode or even of starting out on her jog. But in two court trials a year later, the juries were persuaded by the vivid confessions that each of the five had at least some role in the attack on the young woman. Four, because they were under 16, were sentenced under juvenile guidelines and served jail terms of five to 10 years. The fifth, Kharey Wise, who was 16 and thus classed as an adult, got a sentence of five to 15 years. He came out of prison just last August.

“Sometime last winter a serial rapist and murderer named Matias Reyes, who is serving a 33 1/3-to-life sentence in state prison, sought out the authorities, told them religion had entered his life, and confessed that he and he alone had brutalized and raped the jogger. His DNA, it was soon learned, matched that of the semen found in the jogger’s cervix and on one of her running socks.

“The public wasn’t told any of this for several months as the shocked 'justice system' wrestled with the gargantuan problem.”


  • Sydney Schanberg, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. The Academy Award-winning movie “The Killing Fields” was based on Schanberg’s book, “The Death and Life of Dith Pran.” The book is a memoir of his experiences covering the war in Cambodia for The New York Times and of his relationship with his Cambodian colleague, Dith Pran. Schanberg has been a journalist for forty years. He was the Metropolitan Editor at the New York Times and later a columnist there. In 1986 he left The Times to write his column for the New York daily, Newsday.

Related link:

Related Story

StoryOct 14, 2016Central Park Five’s Yusef Salaam: Donald Trump Needs to Be Fired from Running for President
The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

Non-commercial news needs your support

We rely on contributions from our viewers and listeners to do our work.
Please do your part today.
Make a donation